We are so excited to share our top takeaways from our visit to the Ron Clark Academy. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Ron Clark Academy, and yes, the rumors are true.The Ron Clark Academy is absolutely amazing!
If we were to sum up our trip in one word, our word would be “ELECTRIC.”
Our experience at The Ron Clark Academy was ELECTRIC.
The vibe, the passion, the learning, the feeling,,, everything was ELECTRIC.
If you have not heard of the Ron Clark Academy,
Click here to learn more.
So, what is it like visiting The Ron Clark Academy?
With all of that being said, we can’t wait to share our top takeaways from our visit! Here it goes…
1. Student Relationships
We all know that student relationships are important, but have you ever considered that student relationships are EVERYTHING? When is the last time you looked at your students in their eyes? We mean REALLY looked into their eyes when you were delivering a lesson? It’s that connection that inspires students to rise up and achieve what you are asking from them. The next time you deliver a lesson, notice how many eyes you are looking into. Find out your students’ interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes. Have you eaten lunch with them? Do you have conversations that do not involve academics? Setting this positive personal relationship with students is the foundation for everything else.
Throughout the entire training, there were three words that were mentioned over and over again. MUSIC. MOVEMENT. MAGIC. These three components are crucial for student engagement.
Mrs. Bearden said, “Music is the heart beat of life.” Wow, right?! How often do you have music playing in your classroom? According to our training, it should be ALL THE TIME. Music should be playing as your students enter and exit your classroom. Loud, upbeat, relevant music that your students enjoy listening to! Music should be playing in the background while you are teaching, music should be played while students are independently working. Go to You Tube and type in: Pop Instrumental Music and the year. You will have a plethora of options to choose from! Students can also create music by doing short chants or cheers. Music brings spirit, excitement and enthusiasm.
How much do your students move around the room? They should! How often do you move around the room? Your answer should be ALWAYS! Movement is another way to build a connection with your students. When you deliver a lesson, talk with your hands. We learned that your hands should be moving in an invisible box close to your body for normal speech. When something is of great importance, your hands should break through this invisible box to let students know that they should be listening! If you are walking around the room, STOP when you get to an important point to draw attention. It’s all about these “opposites” that students will quickly pick up on. Students learn when they are moving! Gestures are a great way to reach your students.
Magic is that little something extra that YOU bring to a lesson. A scenario was presented… Imagine that there are six classrooms… three on each side that have their doors open. Each of them has the same materials, the same classroom decor, the same lesson, the same lesson plans, etc… You walk through the hallway and are asked to pick what classroom you would like to be a part of. You pick. What made you pick that classroom? Was it the smile on the teacher’s face? Was it the smile on her students’ faces? Was it the quick joke? Was it the way she moved? Whatever it was, it was her MAGIC. The teacher makes the difference.
3. Teach High
At the Ron Clark Academy, Ron encouraged us to keep teaching to the high students of your class. Don’t stop because a few do not understand. Keep going! He advises that this is what will motivate the others to improve! This is a great reminder! Too often, we may hold the higher students back. We need to provide the enrichment they need, while providing intervention to those that need it also. We should always move forward!
No matter what goals you set for yourself and your students, we need to remember that consistency is key. You can have the best plans, but wonder in the end why they didn’t pay off? You may find yourself blaming your students or complaining to others about how nothing you do seems to work. The problem, as hard as it is to admit, is YOU! You are the number one reason your plans do not work out. You are in charge of how successful you and your students are. The faster you realize this, the further you will get reaching your goals. Start small. Set achievable goals that you can follow through with and build onto them!
Here was one of our BIGGEST take-away from the Ron Clark Academy. If we are being honest, it’s where we struggle the most. Parents. Am I speaking to ya? We can love on our students day after day, but until we love our students’ parents and get their buy-in and involvement, we will keep wondering where we are going wrong.
Have you ever gone above and beyond for a student and then find out that it’s their parent who filed a complaint on you or went to the principal because they questioned something you did? EVERY TIME… are we right?! Ron encourages us to keep two separate compartments. He tells us to separate our heads from our heart. Who’s in your heart? Your personal life and your students. Who’s in your head? The parents. Never let your head affect your heart. Don’t take it too personal and let it affect your heart! You are not going to be able to please everyone all of the time. Someone will hear a story wrong or view something in a different light from what you intended it to be.
With that being said, how should we deal with parents? According to Ron, we should give them the red carpet treatment. Take the extra time to build rapport with them. Get to know their names and their entire family. Build relationships! Have you ever done a home visit? If not, maybe consider going to “that student’s” home to grasp a full picture of who they are. Get that parent’s support and buy-in. Another thought is to consider the way you dress. If there are a group of teachers and you are dressed the nicest, how do you think that you are perceived? Ron stated, “Perception is reality.” The way that parents see you is the reality that they have painted in their heads. When a parent has respect for you, they will be more willing to work with you in a positive way!
So, what we are going to implement at our school? We believe that the above takeaways are more of a mindset than anything else. They are great reminders and philosophies to use in your classroom on a daily basis.
Below, you will find different strategies that we plan to implement. Again, we are going to start small and take it one step at a time so that we can have consistency and success. Here are some amazing strategies that we saw at the Ron Clark Academy.
- Taking the Floor: Taking the floor is all about students answering questions posed by you and moving into a classroom discussion. This strategy puts students in control and gives them a voice. If they have an answer PREPARED and are ready to speak, they simply stand up and address the class (not you). If two students stand up at the same time, they work out who will speak first. For example, if Bob and Mary stand up at the same time and start speaking, Bob can say, “Go ahead Mary. If there is something else I want to add, I will.” Mary can then speak and ask Bob if there was anything else.
- Chants: Chants are short little cheers or attention grabbers. Chants redirect student behavior. For example, if you’re moving around the room and students are not looking at you, you could say, “Track me now!” Students can reply, “Zoom Zoom Pow!” Students would use gestures while doing this. After students respond, you should wait to make sure that everyone is actually looking before moving on.
- Ways to Celebrate: Students should celebrate each other’s accomplishments! Teachers should encourage students to whisper, “Great Job,” if a student “rocks” an answer. That act should get praise too! Students should not be timid to give praise to students that deserve it!
- Essential 55: Ron Clark’s Essential 55 is critical for students to be able to do any of the above tasks. Students need to know how to behave and how to consider students and teachers around them. Ron Clark says that he values the role playing of the Essential 55.
- House System: This is what we are MOST excited about implementing at our school. We believe that the House System provides the sense of family that is critical for a school. If you haven’t heard of a House System or if you haven’t checked it out, be sure to! They have made it so easy for us! The Ron Clark Academy has a FREE app available in your app store. Once you download it, click on Resources and scroll down to Hope King’s House System. She has a whole article titled, “Houses for Dummies.” It is awesome. It takes you through the idea step-by-step! We plan to roll out this House System in upper grades first, work out the kinks, and then go school wide.
we would strongly encourage you to do so!
our minds and in our classrooms.